When Courtney Reese opened Desert Power Yoga on 500 West, she knew she wanted to create partnerships with other community organizations. Her first opportunity came when she was contacted by Underdog Rescue and Rehab, a Moab nonprofit that finds homes for stray dogs from Native American reservations. They asked if she would be interested in hosting a class to benefit the Underdog Rescue Ranch, and she enthusiastically said yes.

Every other Friday, Desert Power offers a donation-based class called Downward Dog for a Cause, with Underdog puppies frolicking in the studio while students practice poses and flows.

“It’s incredible,” Reese said. “They are so cute! It’s half yoga, half playing with puppies.”

All proceeds from the class go to the animal rescue organization.

“We’re so excited, it’s been super fun!” said Chiara Solitario, who works for the dog rescue organization.

Solitario said Underdog Rescue recently rescued their 869th dog since the organization began in 2017, and it is trying to widen its outreach efforts. In addition to needing “forever homes” for rescued puppies and dogs, Underdog Rescue needs financial support to offer spay, neuter, and vaccination clinics. Temporary foster homes for dogs are needed as well as volunteers to help socialize puppies who may have suffered abandonment or neglect.

“We really need to work with these animals to bring them back around,” said Solitario.

The Downward Dog for a Cause classes are a perfect opportunity to work on socialization with the puppies.

Realizing a dream

Reese remembers when she took her first yoga class in a town near her home in South Carolina. She felt an immediate affinity for the atmosphere and the culture.

“It felt like home to me,” she recalled. “It felt like a family, a place I could relax and work out.”

“Right after that yoga class I was like, ‘One day I’m going to get my yoga certification and open a yoga studio,’” Reese said.

That goal was put on hold while Reese moved to Denver to study radiology. She took a trip to Moab to visit a childhood friend and go skydiving and, like many visitors, she fell in love with the area and came back weekend after weekend. Eventually, she decided it would just be easier to move to Moab permanently.

Reese noticed that while there was a yoga community in town, there was no studio for hot yoga classes, barre classes or power yoga.

Reese became friends with the owners of Moab’s Gym on 5th, Emily Klarer and Casey Montandon. Klarer suggested that Reese teach a “Yoga for Athletes” class for their gym members. When Klarer and Montandon bought the space next door to their gym to expand their facilities, Klarer mentioned to Reese that they might rent out their old gym space. Reese saw her chance to realize her old dream of opening a studio.

“Opening a business is so scary, but when it happens organically that makes it a lot easier,” Reese said.

Because the studio had already been modeled as a gym, she didn’t have to make a lot of changes. She repainted and added her logo to the wall, installed a ballet-style barre and had the concrete floor refinished.

Desert Power Yoga opened on May 8 and is offering yoga for athletes, barre & yoga fusion, yoga for kids and families, Buti yoga, high-intensity interval training, hot power yoga, Vinyasa, Yin and restorative yoga.

“We also hold a donation-based class every Saturday, as a way to get the whole community involved in yoga, without having to worry about payments,” Reese said.

Opening a business during a pandemic has added some logistical challenges for Reese. Classes are limited to eight students spaced ten feet apart on the studio floor. Some virtual classes are available.

Despite the ongoing public health threat, Reese said she’s seen a positive response from the community. The second Downward Dog for a Cause class, scheduled for this Friday, is already full.

“It’s been really great, we have a great group of students,” Reese said.

She has also hired eight instructors and is open to having any certified yoga instructor contact her to teach a class in her space. She is also excited to partner with other Moab nonprofits and groups like Underdog in the future, making a difference through her business.

“My vision before we opened was to connect with community organizations,” Reese said.